Tiger can rebound from awful round

A triple bogey from the middle of the fairway and Tiger Woods made the turn at the Memorial tournament on Saturday in 44 strokes.

Forty. Four.

A solid start if you’re a Sunday morning hacker with a bad slice dreaming of cracking 90 for the first time.

Not such a good number, however, when you’re the world’s best golfer and maybe the greatest of all time.

Forty-four into G.O.A.T doesn’t go.

It was, needless to say, the worst nine holes of Woods’ professional career, clipping the 43s he’d shot at the 1996 Tour Championship (after his father was hospitalized), ’07 Bay Hill and in 2010 at Quail Hollow.

It wasn’t a round day for everyone. Matt Kuchar shot a 2-under 70 that gave him a two-shot lead going into the final round.

I was going to ask Woods how old he was the last time he played seven holes in eight over par but Woods — who finished with a seven over par 79, tying his career-worst score in the US — wasn’t in the mood to chat.

But let’s not dial 911 and call for an ambulance just yet.

As Woods walked from the first tee on Saturday, coming off that atrocious triple on the 18th — his ninth hole — a fan yelled: “Hey, you’re going to wake up tomorrow and you’re still going to be Tiger Woods”.

“I started laughing,” said Jim Furyk, who played alongside Woods.

“There are very few things these guys yell that I think are funny, but I thought that was the quote of the day right there.”

Furyk’s been around a long time. He’s played a lot of golf with Woods, whom he considers a friend, and can be counted on to bring a sound perspective to a Tiger discussion.

What did he think about Woods’ meltdown?

“He didn’t hit that many bad shots but got away with none, if that makes sense,” he said.

“I think the score was a lot worse than the actual round was.

“And, remember, this wasn’t like going to your local muni and shooting a 79. This golf course is severe.

“He had holes where bogeys turned into doubles and triples and it just snowballed on him.

“He hit some shots that probably weren’t very crisp for him, but they weren’t awful. But they ended up in bad spots.”

Woods’ first double of the day — on the par-3 12th — was about a foot away from being snug for a birdie.

But it fell back into the bunker and left him with no play other than well away from the flag. From 50 feet, Woods hit his putt far too hard — a familiar refrain for the week — and then missed a 12-footer for bogey.

His mood didn’t improve when he pulled his approach into the par-5 15th — a relatively simple hole that he’s played in five over par through three rounds — and then chopped it around in the rough before making another double bogey.

Woods bogeyed the 17th and before the wheels came off on 18.

After coming up short with a wedge, he chipped up to a few feet but watched the ball spin back off the false front, down toward his feet.

He tried again and left himself a four-footer above the hole for bogey. He missed, then missed an eight-footer for double bogey.

“Eighteen, the third shot was pretty incredible,” said Furyk.

“I was up on the green, I watched it go up, it was spinning like a top, then spin back. It had a lot of juice on it.

“The way this golf course is playing right now, it is scary in spots.

“Some of these pins are in positions that they’re in every year, but the wind doesn’t blow 20, 25 every year with greens that are rolling 14 (on the stimpmeter).”

Furyk said Woods began to press after the early calamities, which only made his day worse.

“It was good for me because I went out and birdied a few (he twice holed out for birdie from bunkers) got a couple under par, then you make a bogey, you can still be patient,” he said.

“He went out, made a double early, then another double and you’re chasing your tail at that point and this is difficult golf course to do that on.

“If you press to try and catch up, it can bite you.”

Furyk also said that it should be noted that Woods closed that front nine and went on to make birdie at both his 10th and 11th holes of the day, and should’ve converted from close range on the next hole, too, but misread the putt.

After declining to speak to the media, Woods later did share his thoughts with a PGA Tour media official, telling them that “it was a tough day."

His other playing partner, Zach Johnson, shot 81.

“We didn’t hit that many bad shots starting out the day and the next thing you know we are quite a few over par,” Woods said.

“I tried to fight back on the back nine, just didn’t quite materialize.”

Furyk cautioned against reading too much into this week’s performance by Woods with the US Open two weeks away.

“No one’s feeling too bad for him,” he said, “He’s won four times hasn’t he?”